Album Reviews

Album Review: Various Artists – Gilles Peterson presents Havana Cultura (Brownswood Recordings)

By | Published on Thursday 29 October 2009

Gilles Peterson

A decade ago I was lucky enough to be in Havana during the carnival season, and was blown away for the Cuban people’s genuine love for music and dance. A decade later our Gilles has been over, and brought back the “New Cuban Sound”. I was expecting some form of rehash of the ‘Buena Vista Social Club’ album, but this is far from that – it’s so varied, from standard Latin, to Cuban hip hop and rap, to classical Cuban song rhythms, and R&B.

The first disc is performed entirely by Gilles Peterson’s Havana Cultura Band, bringing in 20 musicians and featuring guest spots from the likes of Roberto Fonseca and Vince Vella. Together they move through a range of sounds and styles, like the classical piano-driven Caribbean jam of ‘Arroz Con Pollo’, the Afrobeat of ‘Rofofero Fight’, ‘Lagrimas’, which takes things ultra downtempo, and ‘Mami’, which pushes towards Herbie Hancock’s ‘Cantaloupe Island’.

Disc two, meanwhile, is a round up of different moves and grooves by a bevy of Havana’s locals. Highlights include ‘Pa La Lucha’ from Free Hole Negro, which features dynamic words laid on a madcap tropical beat; the almost tribal chant layered over sunkissed vibes on ‘Accompanos’ by Kumar; and ‘Me Lastimas’ by Obsesion, which goes brilliantly downtempo in a hip hop manner. ‘Pasa El Borrador’ by Los Aldenos goes for forceful rap which then apes Snow’s ‘Informer’ towards the end (in a good way), but the best cut is the catchy ‘Amor Internacional’ by Doble Filo, although his other featured track, ‘Que Tu Tres’, cuts less well.

I wouldn’t say the project is instantly accessible, but it’s a definite grower on relistening. It’s fresh, extremely diverse, and on the whole ranges between enjoyable and very enjoyable, thanks to an excellent pool of talent. PV

Press contact: Gerry Lyseight [all]
Release date: 26 Oct

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